Local Youth Leader returns From Kokoda
Originally published in the Oyster Newsletter by Spencer Community Progress Group (Dec 2018 / Jan 2019). The community also held a fundraising event (Kokoda Movie Night) to help Jackson achieve his goal.
Walking the Kokoda Trail was something that defied my expectations in every capacity. Before I embarked, I was incredibly nervous about my ability to complete the trek, but I set out with a mindset of finishing at all costs.
How lucky I was, then, to have been able to journey along the trail with such a vibrant and diverse group of young people. I believe that without those strong people beside me, the trek would have been a radically different experience. There were moments where I struggled, both physically and mentally, and yet these young men and women whom I may now call my friends had the personal resilience to help me in any way they could.
That, I believe, embodies one of the key values that we all found within ourselves by the end of the trek; mateship. The virtues of the young men that fought along the trail in 1942 live on in every one of our group, we each displayed courage, we each made sacrifices, we each had to dig deep and find our inner reserves of endurance, and by the end we had all well and truly exemplified mateship.
This trail is unlike anything I have ever done in life, and it has taught me a great deal about myself, even in ways I was not expecting. Submerging myself in another culture for the first time was a truly humbling experience, and it awoke within me an exceptional well of gratitude for the things in life which I had previously not given the appreciation they were due.
“You don’t have to work on Kokoda, Kokoda will work on you”
On the trail I found there was, within me, reserves of courage and endurance that I had simply not known before. In the first few days of the trail, I found it incredibly difficult, but our trek leader took me aside and told me “You don’t have to work on Kokoda, Kokoda will work on you.” and I think that best encapsulates the journey for me.
As day by day we made it further and further along the trail, I found that both physically and psychologically, the obstacles became easier to surmount. Not because the hills were smaller, but because I myself had grown stronger.
Kokoda is something that one can only do justice by experiencing, as no matter how many details you divulge to your friends once you get home, no matter how many speeches you give or photos you share, it is ultimately a journey that reserves a special place in your memory and your heart for itself.
There’s something truly unique about Kokoda, and it lies in those mountain ranges waiting to be find by all who dare to search for it. It brings me a great deal of pride to say that I, with the undying support of those on the trek with me and those at home, walked from Owers Corner to Kokoda; and the experience has served to deepen my reverence for those brave Diggers, who against all odds, managed to not only survive but fight, and push back the Japanese soldiers in those jungles of Papua New Guinea. I also emerge with a great respect for those “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” and the strong men who carry on their legacy of compassion and resilience to this day.
I have but this to say about the outstanding strength of the porters: Every single day, without fail, I was passed by porters shouldering packs much heavier than mine, going uphill, without trekking poles, whilst wearing thongs and keeping an eye on all the trekkers in sight, with a hand held out to those struggling. There is not a single doubt in my mind that every single person who walks that trail, myself included, will emerge at the end of that trail a stronger person in every regard.
Thank you to everyone for supporting me on this journey.